Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wisconsin Rock and Roll Bands and History

I have been playing the drums for 26 years. I started by doing the usual high school band thing. We played in my parent's basement. We hid booze behind the amps, and we goofed around a lot. Along the way, I managed to find myself in some pretty enjoyable situations. By the time I was 21 years old, I had toured a big chunk of the United States, and my punk band had sold upwards of four thousand copies of a cassette. Yes, I said cassette. It was 1986. We produced our own music, and we would order the cassettes from the factory 500 at a time. If we ran out of cassettes while on tour, we had a duplicator in the van. We would buy blanks along the way.

In between the punk thing, and landing my first recording contract, I spent about ten years working with talented musicians that wrote their own songs and tried their best to land a record deal. I never stopped playing live music, and rarely turned down a show.I was very fortunate to be on a label that put out a number of recordings of one my bands. They took a risk. Some recordings were profitable, some not. That's life. The label would make roughly 2000 copies of each release. The quantity was partly based on if there were profits from the prior release. Our last cd with that label crashed and burned. Two years later, I was happy to hear that the label was including free copies of that disk with every skateboard they sold. Why not give it away if it's not going to sell. Yes, they are an international record label, and skateboard company. It works surprisingly well.

I'm not ashamed to say that one of my cd's tanked. That happens so often in the music world. We had a great run, but our fans grew up and out of that style of music. We did too, and it showed on that cd.

When the time came to tell the band members that the cd was a bust, I had to find them. One was in Korea, on tour with his other band. Our bass player was somewhere in the north woods of Wisconsin, touring with his band. The other guy was on the road with Kenny Chesney. I was in the midst of playing my usual 30 gigs a year with another band, as we were under contract with a national brewing company.

The sad news didn't really crush any of us. We had lots of things going on. Between releases, and after promoting them, we would scatter off and do other things. With very little profit to spread around, we were happy to have the label pay for the recordings, distribute the music, and let us take all the profits from the shows and merchandise.

What's the moral of this post? There is none. I'm just rambling about the tiny dust speck of my musical career to date. Have a great weekend.